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Author's Chapter Notes:
Thank you to those of you reading this story and forgiving me for the long delays between updating. Hope you are still enjoying the story!
Sam felt a little more like herself after her shower but she wasn’t looking forward to opening up about Ryan. She never talked about him with anyone and starting off with AJ wouldn’t have been her first choice. However, she knew she needed to be fair to him and at least give him a general idea about what had gone wrong with her and her husband.

She finished her shower and found him in the kitchen, filling up bowls with soup, when she made her way into the kitchen.

“Feel better?” he asked.

“A little.”

“A little is better than not at all.”

He motioned for her to join him at the table and Sam thanked him for dinner. They ate in silence for a while before AJ blurted out his first question.

“When did all this start?”

Sam put her spoon down and thought about how she wanted to put it.

“I guess after we got married.” she answered. “Although, looking back, there were definitely signs I missed along the way.”

AJ nodded. “I speak from experience when I say hindsight is twenty twenty.”

“You can say that again.” Sam replied and took a sip of water before continuing. “Ryan had such a larger than life personality and that’s what attracted me to him originally. He was always telling jokes, giving compliments and making people feel as though they were the only people in the room. I thought he was genuine in that respect until I realized it was all a carefully constructed act. He only behaved that way in public so he could keep moving up the legal system ladder.” She paused for a minute. “His real side came out when it was just the two of us.”

Sam proceeded to shred her napkin into pieces as she told AJ about all the beatings, the dislocated shoulders, the black eyes, the bruises that just seemed to run together after a while. She listed all the rules that Ryan had for her like her not being able to leave the bed until the morning when he woke up because it would disturb him. Or the rule about not being able to leave the house unless she was escorted by him and only to somewhere that he wanted to go. She admitted that what Sarah had told them about how she got her scars was true and Ryan frequently made her examine her body and list all the things she could work harder on. AJ learned about the isolation he caused her and how walking on eggshells all the time caused her so much panic and stress. By the time she was finished, she could see the anger building in his eyes.

“Please don’t be mad.” she said and put her hand on top of his.

“I’m not mad.” he replied. “I just want to kill him.”

“You and me both.” she whispered.

They sat in silence while AJ figured out how to ask his next question. He didn’t want to insinuate that any of this was her fault and he didn’t want her to shut down but he really needed to know.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way.” he prefaced as he tapped his spoon on the table out of nervousness. “How come you went to Sarah once and then never again?”

Sam sighed. “I tried. I snuck out of the house a bunch of times but Ryan would always find me before I made it very far. He’d pull his usual strings the first few times I refused to come home and I’d wind up in a psych ward until I told him I’d learned my lesson and I’d behave. I was there so many times I felt like I was actually going crazy.”

“How did he get away with that?” AJ demanded. “There has to be rules or a law or something.”

“He was the ADA.” Sam said with a sad little laugh. “He had cops that owed him for helping them out and there were a few judges that did the same thing to their families. You’d be stunned to see all the evil, illegal things that happen within our legal system.”

At this point, AJ was running through a mental list of all the pain he wanted to inflict on Ryan. He was beyond lucky to have a woman like Sam as his wife and he did nothing but disrespect and abuse her. If Sam was his wife, he would move heaven and earth to make sure she knew how much he loved her.

“Plus,” Sam said quietly, breaking him out of his thoughts, “Ryan rigged our doors after the seventh time I ran. He installed doors that needed keys to open both sides and he never let those keys out of his sight.”

“How did you get out then?” he asked, confused.

Sam didn’t answer right away. She knew she’d have to tell him everything at this point and it scared her. Doing what she did was the only thing that saved her life but to someone who wasn’t in her shoes, it probably sounded horrible. There was no going back at this point and she hoped that when she told him, he wouldn’t hate her afterwards.

“I drugged him.” she responded quietly. “That’s how I got out.”

AJ’s jaw dropped but he didn’t say anything. Sam couldn’t look him in the eye so she got up and moved over to the counter. She couldn’t bear seeing disappointment in his eyes so she continued the story from there.

“We were at a dinner party one night and on my way back from the bathroom, I heard a few women talking about the fact that one of the well-known judge’s wives was addicted to Percocet and she was so hooked that she carried them with her everywhere. I snuck into the guest bedroom and found her purse; they were right, it looked like a pharmacy.”

AJ waited patiently as she struggled to get her story out.

“I stole a few of the pills and wrapped them in a tissue. I remembered Ryan saying something about a knee surgery he had when he was in college and how the doctor prescribed them for him. He made a point of saying that they knocked him out for hours and how a train could run by and he wouldn’t hear it.”

AJ stood up and walked over to the counter. He turned her around so that she was facing him and he pushed her chin up so that he could look her in the eye.

“Tell me what happened.”

“It took me a few weeks to work up the nerve,” she said as she started to tear up, “but I finally crushed them up into one of his nightcaps. He was right; I could hear him snoring within ten minutes and I took the keys and got out. I’ve never looked back.”

AJ wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close to him. Resting her head against his chest, she put her arms around him and just stood there for a few minutes.

“You don’t hate me?” she whispered finally.

“No.” AJ said and kissed her head. “How could anyone hate you? You did what you had to in order to survive Sam. Besides, you didn’t actually kill him.”

She knew he was right but at that moment, she almost wished she had.